Market Report: Exodus of top staff continues at M&S

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The Independent Online

It may be a high street institution, but Marks & Spencer is not having much luck holding on to its staff at the moment. The retailer's boss, Marc Bolland, has already had to bid farewell to a number of senior figures this year, and yesterday came the news that another top name is jumping ship.

Richard Price is the latest to go, with the head of the menswear divison (whose suits can be seen on the England team during Euro 2012) set to become managing director at rival BHS.

His move to the department store – owned by billionaire and former M&S suitor Sir Philip Green – is just one of several recent departures at M&S. Others deciding to move on this year have included veteran clothing director Andrew Skinner and brand director Alison Jones.

Investors were also moving out of M&S yesterday, as the retailer – which last month was forced to take a knife to its sales growth expectations – slipped back 10.5p to 326.8p .

The group was hit by another blow after analysts at Exane BNP Paribas produced a weighty, 138-page tome on the clothing retailer. In it, they decided to give M&S an "underperform" rating, warning its revenue targets for the UK could be missed.

After stocks on Wall Street dropped sharply late on Thursday, the FTSE 100 followed suit yesterday. The benchmark index slumped 52.67 points to 5,513.69 as downbeat business confidence figures from Germany added to the pile of gloomy economic data released this week,

With oil prices falling to a year-and-a-half low and copper at its weakest for six months, the commodity stocks were among the worst-off. Tullow Oil dropped 50p to 1,431p and miner Eurasian Natural Resources dipped 14.3p to 414.3p.

Risers were in a minority, but Shire was one. The pharma group powered up 22p to 1,966p after regulators in Europe rejected a rival to its Gaucher disease drug produced by peers Pfizer and Protalix BioTherapeutics.

The European Medicines Agency did, however, back products from AstraZeneca (6p lower at 2,771.5p) and Switzerland's Novartis. The latter's Seebri Breezhaler treatment is licensed from Vectura, so the news prompted the small-cap drugs maker to shoot up 8p to 79.5p.

Back on the top-tier index, Lloyds managed to finish ahead, moving up 0.19p to 31.39p, despite being one of the banks downgraded by Moody's late on Thursday night. Also among the 15 global banks hit was Royal Bank of Scotland, which only crept down 0.1p to 243.2p.

Staff at 3i may want to look away now. The private equity firm, whose portfolio includes luxury lingerie seller Agent Provocateur, is holding an AGM next week which will see new boss Simon Borrows unveil the results of a strategic review.

Part of his attempts to revive a company which last year made a negative total return of £656m could, according to a report from Bloomberg, be the loss of 160 jobs, or two-fifths of its workforce.

There were also suggestions 3i may decide to shrink its Singapore operations. The group refused to be drawn on the talk, however, saying it was "speculative in nature", although investors seemed to like the idea as it jumped 3.9p to 184p on the FTSE 250.'s decision to spend £87m on MoneySavingExpert received the thumbs-up from Citigroup's Hugo Mills, who raised his advice on the price comparison site to "buy".

However, the analyst did warn that with the MoneySavingExpert brand being "tightly interwoven with Martin Lewis' personality", one challenge would be keeping the site's founder (pictured) onside. With Mr Mills also calming fears over the threat from Google moving into the price-comparison game, finished the session 3p better off at 123.2p.

Tomorrow's England game should give the boozers a major boost, according to the British Beer & Pub Association which claimed eight million extra pints will be sunk as a result. Still, the sector had a tough day – although Marston's crept up 0.2p to 100.2p, Enterprise Inns and Mitchells & Butlers retreated 1.75p to 64p and 4p to 243.8p.

Down on the small-cap index, Marketing Week-publisher Centaur pranced up 5.25p to 37.5p after announcing it had agreed to buy e-marketing information company Econsultancy for £50m.

FTSE 100 Risers

BT 205p (up 3.5p, 1.74 per cent)

Telecoms group finishes the session in the gold medal position on the Footsie, with traders saying that the move is a response to its recent underperformance.

Unilever 2,093p (up 13p, 0.63 per cent)

Marmite-owner's recovery continues after having been knocked by profit warnings earlier in the week from rivals Danone and Procter & Gamble.

FTSE 100 Fallers

Carnival 2,174p (down 92p, 4.06 per cent)

Cruise giant retreats after announcing earnings of $14m (£8.9m) for the second quarter, a massive fall from the $206m it saw over the same period a year earlier.

Glencore 312.65p (down 10p, 3.1 per cent)

Commodities trading giant once again sets a new, all-time low as it says it could seek compensation for the nationalisation of a tin and zinc mine in Bolivia.

FTSE 250 Risers

Dairy Crest 328.9p (up 9.2p, 2.88 per cent)

Cathedral City cheese maker tops the mid-tier index, rising strongly for the second straight day after suffering a sharp slide on Wednesday.

Micro Focus 488.5p (up 10.8p, 2.26 per cent)

Software company has its price target raised by several brokers, including Panmure Gordon, Goldman Sachs and Barclays, following Thursday's final results.

FTSE 250 Fallers

Aquarius 50.2p (down 3p, 5.64 per cent)

Platinum producer falls sharply for the second straight session after announcing on Thursday the second suspension of a mine in less than a fortnight.

Michael Page 365.8p (down 16.3p, 4.27 per cent)

Recruitment company slides as Credit Suisse downgrades its advice to "underperform" from "neutral" while at the same time reducing its target price to 355p.